MESSAGE DELIVERED: JULY 16, 2017
We’re now approaching the wrap-up of this body of teaching, and these last verses may be the most important of all. Verse 21 is actually a continuation of the thoughts of verses 17 through 20…the “good tree” and the “bad tree”. So we have to carry forward the contention that the WORKS one does, will determine the GENUINENESS of their Salvation.
I don’t remember who it was that said “an unexamined life is not worth living”…but I do know that an unexamined SALVATION experience is a very DANGEROUS thing to bet your eternal security on. And that is exactly what Jesus is saying here. Dr. John Stott, in his study on this sermon, said…”these are the most solemn words ever uttered in this world, not only by man, but by the Son of God Himself”.
And Dr. R.T. France, in his commentary on this section, said “this section, relating to verses 19 and 20, makes the more explicit point; the ultimate rejection of those whose ‘discipleship’ was only superficial. It relates not only to the already mentioned ‘false prophets’, but to any merely SPURIOUS profession of discipleship”.
That is not meant to FRIGHTEN anyone into thinking that they aren’t REALLY Saved. It only means that we understand that a day is coming when we will all stand before God in final judgement. This is a continuation of the teachings concerning False Prophets, and the Lord considers this a sufficiently serious matter that He comes back to it again.
He has basically FINISHED the teachings, and is now moving into the application. He actually began the application in the passage about the “Narrow Gate”. And this time He is even more BLUNT about it, because of the seriousness of the matter.
As He has done with the rest of the teaching, He first makes the point, then He illustrates it…and applies it. “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” That is the proposition. Then He illustrates and elaborates.
Verse 22 says “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your Name, and done many wonders in Your Name?'” We have to note that there is no lack of sincerity. It is a deliberate claim to a master/disciple relationship. They are sincerely UNAWARE…SELF-DECEIVED…that their ‘discipleship’ does not match Jesus’ criteria for obedience.
Some even quote this passage, as they attempt to prove that “It is not so much a man’s DOCTRINE that counts, but what he DOES that matters. Did not Jesus say ‘not everyone shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, BUT HE THAT DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER IN HEAVEN’?” So it’s important to take the whole teaching in CONTEXT, and not try to ISOLATE one PORTION of it.
So, as to the profession of discipleship; not even so-called miraculous activity in Jesus’ Name, is enough to prove the genuineness of a disciple. In Mark 9:38 is the story of an EXORSIST, using Jesus’ Name to cast out demons, even though he was not a part of Jesus’ group of CALLED disciples. You might recall, in that instance, JOHN wanted to make the man STOP, since he WAS actually casting OUT demons…but Jesus said “No, let him be. He that is not against Me, is FOR Me.”
NOT a disciple, NOT called by Jesus, but STILL achieving success. So it is possible for apparent miraculous results to be ‘counterfeited’. But such activity is no substitute for obedience and a personal relationship with Jesus.
Dr. Charles Bengel writes this…”We could add here; ‘Lord, Lord, have we not written commentaries and published exegetical notes on books and passages in both Old and New Testaments? Have we not preached fine SERMONS…’ etc. The sad fact is, not everyone professing Christ is GENUINELY Saved. Even an outward, VERBAL acknowledgement of His Lordship, is by itself not enough to Save the unbeliever.
Apart from true repentance, Salvation is not possible. When John the Baptist came out of the desert preaching, WHAT was his message? “REPENT for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” When JESUS took up HIS ministry, what was HIS message? “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And what message is being AVOIDED in many churches today? Repentance. And Salvation without repentance is NOT sincere Salvation. Can YOU even IMAGINE how many otherwise bright and respectable people will approach the Throne of Judgement on that Last Day, in full confidence that they HAVE been Saved, when in reality they have been deceived?
And as dangerous as it is to emphasize WORKS at the expense of BELIEF, the PROBLEM being presented here goes even DEEPER than that. It is the danger of self-delusion…of self-deception…I mean…as these people from verse 22 come before the Lord, at the end of the age, not expecting to be JUDGED, but instead expecting to hear the Lord THANK them, EFFUSIVELY, for the great WORKS they have done.
You can almost hear Frank Sinatra in the background singing “I Did It MY Way”! But the Lord’s repudiation of these so-called workers, is one of the most astounding and sobering statements in Scripture. Please understand, He is NOT criticizing them for saying “Lord, Lord”. EVERYone should say THAT.
BUT, not everyone that SAYS that will be granted entrance into that Kingdom of Heaven. We MUST believe that Jesus IS the Eternal Son of God. We MUST believe that there is NO Salvation APART from Him. But we MUST ALSO come TO Him, HIS way.
James, the half-brother of the Lord, tells us this in the book that he wrote, when he said “You believe in God. You do well. But even the DEMONS believe, and TREMBLE.” So mere BELIEF is not enough for Salvation, because those demons believe, but remain demons.
There is danger is simply BELIEVING in Jesus. The evidence for the EXISTANCE; the HUMAN existence, of Jesus, is overwhelming. Any intelligent person, looking at the historical and Scriptural evidence for the existence of Jesus…has to believe that He IS, or at least that He WAS. But that is NOT ‘Saving Faith’.
So, if just BELIEVING in Jesus is NOT enough to produce Salvation, and if doing GOOD WORKS in Jesus NAME is not enough to produce Salvation, what DOES?
There’s a telling statement there in verse 23, where in condemning these self-deluded people, He says “depart from Me, you that PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” or “that WORKETH INIQUITY” as the King James Version reads. In verse 21, the phrase “he that does the Will of My Father” is in the PRESENT TENSE, meaning one that is CONTINUALLY engaged in living in obedience to the Father’s will, as a way of life.
In verse 23, the phrase “that worketh iniquity” is ALSO in that PRESENT tense, meaning that these who come to Jesus expecting to gain entrance to Heaven, based on certain “GOOD WORKS” they have performed, are ALSO living a life of continual SIN, with occasional GOOD works tossed in. It is a tenet of some eastern religions that, at the end of one’s life, your GOOD deeds will be weighed against your EVIL deeds, and if the GOOD outweigh the BAD, you will be welcomed into Heaven.
That is the same self-delusion as thinking that if you do something GOOD, the Lord will OVERLOOK your SIN. But that’s just Sinatra singing “My Way” again. If you need to understand how SERIOUSLY God views SIN, then just LOOK at the CROSS!
Do you really think God would allow HIS own SON to LEAVE all the GLORY and SPLENDOR of HEAVEN, and put ASIDE all His POWER and AUTHORITY, and to come down HERE, to live in poverty and obscurity, and then to begin a public ministry that would put Him at ODDS with the religious rulers of the day, and then allow His Son to be TIED to a POST, and SCOURGED until He was nearly DEAD…and then to have the heavy CROSS placed upon His lacerated shoulders, and DRIVEN up Calvary’s Mountain, and THERE, to be NAILED to that Cross, and LIFTED up, to SUFFER untold AGONY as His Life’s-blood ran down, and as God the Father then placed ON His own Son, the PENALTY for EVERY sin EVER committed, and to let Him DIE, in abject agony…if God wasn’t SERIOUS about SIN?! NONE of that would have HAPPENED!
So, for you to think that God will OVERLOOK your sin, if only you do something GOOD now and then, is nothing less than condemning YOURSELF to eternity in the Lake of Fire.
It doesn’t matter HOW many good things you do…or HOW beautifully you preach…if you’re still living in sin. Paul even said that himself in Philippians 1:15…where he said that SOME preach Christ out of hope for financial gain, or some preach Christ attempting to DISCOUNT the works of Paul…and they could do that, and STILL be LOST.
In Luke 16:15, Jesus told the Pharisees, “You are they that justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed before men, is an abomination before God.” And you have to see that in the light of those men who are LAUDED and PRAISED for their preaching ability, who SAY all the RIGHT things, and say them BEAUTIFULLY, and may STILL be outside the Kingdom.
And yet, they may have never REPENTED in bitter tears, over the SINS they committed; may even have convinced themselves they HAD no sins of which they NEEDED to repent. So it was all CARNAL, and the TRUTH was never in them.
And you say “How can that be”? Don’t you see how EASY it could be for someone who has sat under the teaching of one of today’s preachers, who are saying “God loves you…you’re a GOOD person!”…and never tries to convince the sinner of their sinfulness. Who has the greater guilt? The one who fails to preach repentance, or the one who doesn’t know that he NEEDS to repent?
Aren’t these the ones of whom Jesus said “Can the blind lead the blind? Will not both fall into the ditch?” In light of the seriousness of the matter of salvation, it is a good idea to TEST yourself. On WHAT are you BASING that Salvation? On the things that YOU have done, or on the things that GOD has done?
As we get close to the end of this Sermon on the Mount, and as Jesus now tells us about those who will at the Last Judgement, find that they were LOST all along…it’s a good idea to go back to the BEGINNING of the Sermon, to those BEATITUDES that we STARTED with, and ASK yourself…”Do I believe that I AM a sinner? And have I REPENTED of those sins, and turned to Jesus and asked Him to FORGIVE me, and to SAVE me, and to prepare a PLACE for me, in Heaven?”
Good, then ask yourself “Am I POOR in spirit? Am I MEEK? HUMBLE? Do I GROAN at the EVIL and LAWLESSNESS in the world?” Those are TESTS, those Beatitudes. Tests of one’s CHARACTER, one’s NATURE!
Here, near the END of the Sermon, He tells of the MANY who will say to Me in that Day…”we did all these GREAT things…”. But they are, in fact “those that justify themselves before men, but God knows their hearts”.
NEVER, are we told that you can be Saved by the THINGS YOU do. But we ARE told, that having BEEN Saved, you are then DRAWN to GOOD WORKS. Your FAITH will PRODUCE good works, but good works will NEVER produce Saving Faith! That’s James, the Lord’s brother again.
Make very sure, beloved, that you have AGREED with God, that you ARE a sinner. And that you have REPENTED of those sins, and asked Jesus to SAVE you, and to FORGIVE you, and to HELP you to live a life of WHOLESOMENESS. Make SURE that when you approach that Throne of Judgement, you are relying ONLY on what JESUS has done, and NOT on anything YOU may have done, to get you into God’s Heaven.
Well, in verses 24 through 27, as Jesus draws His Sermon to a close, He uses a PARABLE again. That of two BUILDERS…ONE who DUG DEEPLY, and established his foundation on the solid ROCK, and the one who merely built on the SAND. One is labeled WISE, and the other FOOLISH! And right up front I’ll tell you that the HOUSES are the LIVES the men lived, and the RAIN is the JUDGEMENT that will TEST those lives.
So one man dug DEEPLY into God’s Word, and found the BEDROCK upon which to establish his life, and the OTHER just superficially MISSED the very NEED to do that. One knew that ONLY on the ROCK of CHRIST was his house safe, while the other thought the SAND, which is the WORLD, was enough to base his life on.
BOTH men LABOR, in the building. And BOTH men HAD to know that a day of judgement WAS coming. But the WISE man knew only a FIRM FOUNDATION would protect against the storm, and the FOOLISH thought just a strong and stout HOUSE would be enough.
Every time I read this, I’m reminded of a little village in northern New York where we lived a while back. The village was built on a fairly large river that would FREEZE, almost to the BOTTOM, every winter, and in the spring, as the snow melted, and drained into the river, the water would LIFT that ice, and carry it downstream.
There was a broad, flat area just out of town, where the river made a sharp bend, and it was a POPULAR place for people to build their homes. But every spring, the river would rise, and the ice would flow, and be pushed right up onto that broad flat expanse, and wipe OUT those homes. And every year, when the ice went back down, people would REBUILD, on the same wide FLOOD PLAIN. And they KNEW that the flood would come back, and wipe them out again. FOOLISH is the only way to describe that.
BOTH builders are represented in verse 26, which is the WRAP-UP of all this teaching. The TRUTHS laid out in this sermon represent ALL one needs, to find entrance in God’s Heaven, and that SHOULD be the aim of every life.
However, Jesus knows that some will hear these words, and still think they can have it their OWN way. And others will hear them, and rejoice at having found the ONLY way to Glory.
So the WISE man will TAKE this teaching into his heart, and daily try to apply them in his life. While the FOOLISH one will say “because I have HEARD this teaching, I’m now okay. I can live my own way.
That takes us back to verses 21 through 23…Jesus is very clear there, that it is not only by the HEARING of this teaching…it is not only by KNOWING what we are supposed to do that counts. It is KNOWING, and then DOING.
A life of ease, a life of plenty, a life free of problems and troubles, would be wonderful. But the STORMS and FLOODS and RAINS of verses 24 through 27 WILL come into every life. In SPITE of some currently popular teachings, that kind of life is NOT promised! The STORMS are promised! The FLOODS are promised, and HOW you weather those storms, will depend on how DEEPLY you have taken these teachings into your life.
Those who CLING to them, will find Paradise at the end of the Narrow Road. Those who hear them, and think they can still do it their OWN way, will find that at the end of that BROAD Road, is only everlasting destruction. Superficial discipleship will result in the “GREAT FALL” of verse 27. The “SAND” of verse 26, that represents human effort and opinion, will never protect like the “ROCK” of verse 26.
But the CHOICE is always up to YOU! Over the past several weeks we have looked closely at this teaching. Now it’s up to us who have heard it, to decide HOW we will deal with it.
And the FIRST question, as always, has to be…have you ACCEPTED Jesus and His Sacrifice as YOUR payment for sins? Have you asked Him to come into your life and be your Lord? Or maybe that is something you still need to do…before you can even BEGIN to apply this teaching to your life.
Or, have you BEEN Saved by the Blood of Calvary, but now realize that you have been trying to live your OWN way, and not His? And are you finally ready to change that?
Your invitation this morning is number 371…”Have Thine Own Way”…and beloved, THAT is the ONLY way through the storm of life. So make sure today, that HIS way, is YOUR way too!